Thursday, November 08, 2007

Getting Shunned

Not for the first time and not for the last, I've caused someone's brow to furrow due to my spouting regarding reasons why people leave Mormonism. In this case, I made a comment about the sci-fi writer Bill Shunn's lifestyle in the post immediately below this one, in the section called "Four Things I Covet." This comment of mine sparked two very interesting responses from Bill on his own blog.

For Bill's first response, click here. And here's what I wrote back to that:
OK, so I'm having a bit of a midlife crisis. I openly admit it. Just wait till you turn 40, young man. (I hit 41 last month.)

You certainly spent more time on your responses than I did on my original thingy, which I certainly would have worded differently if I'd thought to think and to remember that people actually may read my blog or have Google alerts set to their name (which I do too). Once I was even ruder than this vis-a-vis Neil LaBute, and he read it and called me on it, and we're not buddies anymore, to my regret. Now I'll NEVER bring him back into the church... KIDDING.

Thanks for being so nice about my piddle on your rug! (Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic.) Of course I have to use Mormonspeak and Mormonthink to justify my current position in life and to diffuse the very real temptation of a life more like yours, which I'm already way too deep to ever pursue without catastrophic upheaval. And yes, I do see it as a temptation—for me. At the same time, part of me admires your courage.

To me, you are essentially a rather fascinating literary character who I know only through what I've read and listened to. Our backgrounds are remarkably similar, so it's all too easy for me to imagine yours as the other road I could have taken. Thanks for reminding me that you're human too, even if you've yet to prove your corporeal reality to me (came close, once...).
I also made a comment about how Bill's difficult dad gave him more of an excuse to reject his parents' lifestyle, which prompted this response from Bill and the following comment from me:
Fascinating post. I've felt quite angry about your dad, especially that boyhood erection thing, but I do remember how loving and supportive he was when he came to Canada to help you out. Certainly more complex a character than my offhand comment acknowledged.

When you are in the Motrix and feel that you can and should and must stay there, then there MUST be something wrong with those who leave, and you can't help looking for those reasons—or at least I can't, and I'm sure others in the Motrix can't either, or they're not really in the Motrix, are they. The only other alternative is that there must be something wrong with Mormonism, if it can't live up to all its claims and premises—which it doesn't, if someone can legitimately leave it.

So yeah, that's my impulse—there must be some underlying human flaw in those who leave. A bad dad's one of the better "excuses" I can imagine--or at least, one that I imagine could have helped lead me permanently out, personally. Obviously I can't and shouldn't pretend to know enough about yours or anyone else's situation to judge, which is something I need to be more careful about. But when one's story is publicly published online in any form, I tend to think it's fair game to at least try to think about it and figure it out, even if it becomes more of an academic exercise than an authentic reflection on the actual person under examination, and even if onlookers are repulsed by the stench of the Motrix outlook.
Well, Shunn was actually quite civil and reasonable, which I appreciate. I still stand by my statements and expect I will ruffle other feathers in the future as I have in the past, but I think overall these kinds of exchanges are a good exercise. And by the way, I do highly recommend Shunn's writing, especially his podcast version of his missionary memoir. To hear it, go to iTunes, search for "William Shunn's ShunnCast," click on the podcast name, and then you can selectively download episodes #11–42 ( you can skip episodes 21, 29, and 37, when he takes a break from the memoir to podcast other things).


shunn said...

You are a gentleman and a scholar. And a rogue, but that's another matter.

I would like to point out to your readers, if I may, that all the Accidental Terrorist–related episodes of "ShunnCast" are listed on the following page:

Each episode can be launched or downloaded from there as well, and there's even a new option to play them directly in your browser.

Darlene said...

How do you set a google alert for your name?